Generic Interviewing

Have you ever been interviewed for a role and the questions could have been for any job at the company?  Sometimes this occurs when companies are more focused on your ability to fit into their culture than your ability to function in the role.  I call these generic interviews and a total waste of everyone’s time.

While I thought this animal was long extinct, I experienced this type of interview recently myself, and was completely dumbfounded as the questions kept coming with zero connection to the job responsibilities, or my capacity to execute deliverables.  While the hypothetical situations where fun to answer, it took a lot of unnecessary creativity to insert applicable answers to demonstrate experience.

When this interview was completed though, it became clear that the real reason they were unable to conduct a situational interview for this position is they had no clue what the role should be able to do!  Oh my, it was a new role and I was describing the possibilities and while they were enthralled at the vision at the same time they didn’t know how to react or whether they should.  When I asked the inevitable budget questions there were no answers because they had not funded the department yet, even though they were actively hiring a manager.

I’ve got to wonder how you get approval to recruit for a job, with no budget other than salary, and then not have a clear understanding of what the goals and objectives are for the position. Not only does it make the recruiting process challenging, but what happens once the person begins work?

While to some a free rein to do “whatever you think is needed” without any budget allotted may sound like a utopian opportunity, to me it would be one long vacation into insanity!  Since I was unable to logically convince them to step back, think this through and set some goals, I got their attention by “withdrawing my application” during the interview.  There are days I wish my glasses had a built-in camera, because the reactions on those three faces were precious.

In any case I caused them to at least pause a little, and think through to their next step.  I believe they will slow down a little in the recruiting process and realize that not everyone out there is so desperate to work they will do and say whatever it takes to get an offer.  If I had done that I believe I would have done them little service.  Then of course I practice “Servant Leadership” and not “Self-Serving Leadership.”

Make Transitions Smooth

I’ll bet that each of us can remember a time we left an organization and the process of leaving was mutually smooth for both parties.  At the same time I’m willing to bet that each of us have dreaded the day that we dared to resign, because from that day forward we were treated like we had the plague or leprosy and they couldn’t wait to kick us out the door.

It is for the benefit of both the company and the employee that both endeavor to make exit transitions smooth.  Although it is not uncommon for employers to accept the resignation as immediate and pay the employee through the notice period, I fail to see the logic in this practice unless the employee has proven to be a threat to national security in the past.  A smooth transition allows all work processes to pass from one party to another with minimal disruption.

I had one employer that was panicked that I would be letting fellow employees and vendors know the “real reasons” I was leaving.  They offered me a large sum of “hush” money and wanted me to sign that my silence would be taken to the grave.  I passed on the offer.  When you are an unethical organization like this one was, I can see the concern that would engage such a reaction because they wanted to keep a lid on the truth.  Funny thing about the truth is it always gets out eventually.  In my case, everyone knew why I was resigning and wondered what took me so long to make the decision.

When companies are angry or feel defensive over an employee resigning, there is too much emotion to make a transition smooth.  Both parties need to take the emotion out of the process and focus on what is best for the organization and the customers.  Spending less time on damage control and more time on understanding what needs to be completed by the successor to the role is more important. 

I’d like to recommend that both the company and the employee that has decided to resign be prepared for this event.  Both should create a list of transition steps and an agreed upon date for implementation.  This avoids last day items from appearing too early in the notice period and looking like the employee is being pushed out.

The benefits of a smooth transition are many, but in my mind it leaves both parties still feeling good about each other.  When there is minimal animosity on the last days then there is also little chance the “real reasons” will ever be revealed.  I believe that most people can forgive and forget things in the workplace over time, as long as the final days are respectful.

Compensation & Productivity

There are many studies that point to the lack of increased productivity after someone has been given an increase in their salary.  And although the same studies will note a modest increase in productivity in some employees after a salary increase, they are quick to note that it is a temporary lift.  Once an employee gets used to the new salary, productivity will revert to the previous levels.  So what do you think about decreasing compensation to motivate increased productivity?

Suppose you have a commission sales force selling your product, and your sales are down for the previous year and things are not looking any better so far this year.  To increase profits it is determined that we need to pay the sales force less money.  Somehow that will increase sales and make more money?

Another company is in the middle of launching some aggressive skill building programs and then the 1st quarter sales results came in lower than expected.  The way to off set reduced sales was determined by eliminating training thus saving money.  So if I understand this correctly, the focus is on reducing expenses, when the issue is increasing sales.

Compensation is a tool that can motivate certain behaviors.  At the same time if you remove compensation, you will rarely if ever increase productivity.  Most of the time the only increase productivity you will get from the employee is in looking for another job!

By decreasing income, or training which is also seen as a benefit, you are sending the signal that you are putting less into this employer-employee relationship.  So why on earth would any sane person believe the employee would react in a positive way?  Instead of the little extras this employee might be doing for the company, they now see themselves as doing and giving less in this relationship to offset the decreased compensation

You have heard of the phrase “You get what you pay for?”  How about this new phrase, “You don’t get what you don’t pay for?”

Succession Planning from the Bottom Up

Why is it when we hear the words “Succession Planning” do we automatically focus on only the CEO?  Granted this is the pin point of the top of the pyramid, but without a solid base the top of the pyramid doesn’t amount too much.  When the ancient pyramids were built, they didn’t start at the top, but at the basement level.

In fact, just to take the pyramid concept a step further, the architects had very detailed and thoughtful plans in place before they began laying the first brick, and these structures are still in place today.  If they had concentrated on only the very top of the structure, we would not have the opportunity to see and touch these monuments today.

Succession Planning is a process by which we build competencies in every employee so that they may support another.  If we are to only focus on a few “key positions” then the structure we are building we eventually fall and crumble.  Our organizations are only as good as the people we have working for us, and yet we often fail to have a comprehensive succession plan in place.  By our lack of planning, we become reactive and wait until someone resigns before we act.

Every employee that works for the organization needs to be able to perform their individual job function as well as possible.  As much as possible, it is preferred that every employee also is able to support at least one other job function.   

No two succession plans are the same, because the criteria for promotion and succession are tied to the company’s own culture.  But let’s be crystal clear, no company should be without a comprehensive succession plan that addresses the development needs of each role, and the requirements to assume a position.  By building your Succession Plan from the bottom up, nothing slips through the cracks for the top of the pyramid.  Design your plan with the assumption that your next CEO could come from any employee working for you today if that person develops the skills, attitudes and performance you are seeking. 

Succession Planning is often the function of the Human Resources Department because of their close ties with all management and employees.  Training is also a team member in this process as the annual strategic training plan needs to line up with the goals of the succession plan’s developmental needs.  Yet where a Succession Planning Committee is formed from all parts of the rank and file we see a sharing of the responsibilities for design and implementation.

The bottom line is this; by developing each person and each role in your succession plan you not only have an active pipeline of qualified people for future promotion, you have a very well run organization until succession is required.

Lacking The Time To THINK

I attended a webinar today presented my Lisa Bodwell, the CEO of FutureThink on “Hitting The Reset.”  She began with a staggering statistic about the lack of time we have to think these days, a strategy that allows creativity and problem solving.  She said the results of the research was a whopping 5% of our time is spent in the “thinking” mode.  It is no wonder we can’t dig ourselves out of this economic recession, depression or whatever you want to call it.  We need new ideas and positive changes and that requires time to think.

This was my first experience with FutureThink and Lisa Bodwell.  If you have not taken a serious look at the company and their training techniques, run don’t walk to their website!

The ideas that were expressed in the webinar are not ones I feel comfortable sharing in this space because of copywrite issues.  Yet, I can tell you I walked away with my mind clicking and truly jazzed at some of the possibilities if we could get people to think more often and empower them to change some of the things that get in our way of being productive and problem solving.

So rather than take anymore of your time reading this blog, go to and start thinking differently right now!

“Let’s Plan To Fail!”

When was the last time you attended a management meeting of any size/scale and the group leader stood up and after announcing a new strategic plan finished with “Let’s All Plan To Fail”??

Never you say?  I would agree 100% with you that it is never something that is openly stated, but a lack of attention to a process that can cause an initiative to fail is the equivalent, just not as obvious.

I am currently watching a company that is in the process of acquiring another company of equal size, and has announced a second acquisition of another company of equal size within the next 6 months.  They will be tripling their size, customer base and employee head count in less than a year.

When I found out that the acquiring company had been operating for the past few years without a formal training function, I decided to reach out to management to offer my assistance as they prepared to train all these new employees in products, services and culture.

To my genuine surprise, I discovered that there was no formal plan in place for training.  Somehow everything that employees needed to learn how to do would come about naturally.  In other words, the strategic plan was – Let’s All Plan To Fail!”

As this is a disaster in the making, I am doing my consultative best to convince management that this is not the best plan of inaction, and that a lot is riding on both of these acquisitions being as successful as possible.  Not only do the current employees and customers deserve better, future acquisitions could fail to materialize if these two flop.

Bottom line, if you expect human beings to perform differently than they are today, you must have a learning performance plan in place.  Rolling the dice is just not a reliable plan.  Neither is failing to implement something as simple as a training plan.


The Three Ghosts

One of my favorite Christmas movies is the Christmas Carole, and I wonder what would happen if those three ghosts were to visit a few selected company CEOs and help them see things differently.  Imagine for a second if your company started doing things completely the opposite of the way they have in the past?  Would that be a good thing or a bad thing?

I think the simple moral of the Christmas Carole story is that it is never too late to change.  No matter what bad behaviors we have exhibited in the past, no matter how we have managed processes or people we could do things better from here on out.  For some of us we could be motivated to make these changes just by reading an encouraging blog.  For others, 3 spirits with their own agendas might be necessary to see the light.  And sadly, some will never change under any haunting circumstance.

So for those of you that have someone you wish could change (or maybe it is your company that needs to change) how could you influence them to perform differently from now on?  If they were to start tomorrow morning with a new attitude, what should be different?

I personally like the Christmas Carole theme for a strategic planning meeting.  The “Ghost of Company Past” begins by discussing the company past tense and what was so meaningful and worked so well.  What did you forget and stop doing?  What would still work today that worked in the past?

Then the “Ghost of Company Present” takes a hard look at the company today, and what is happening that you don’t know about.  What startles you about the status quo?  What is lining up as a perfect storm that could threaten your very existence?

Lastly, take a look forward with the “Ghost of Company Future”.  Not the company you want to exist, but the one you are lined up to become, because of your existing practices.  Is it even close to the reality you want?

Whether the three ghosts visit you or someone else, the experience is only valuable if you wake up refreshed and willing to change.  My wish for you is for not only for the open mind to see your reality but for the strength of character that may be needed for you to change your ways in a 180 degree about face.